Using John 6:53-56 and St Augustine's Discourse on the Eucharist
Books by Bishop Callahan
Catholics, in our commitment to the Ancient Faith, must approach the sacraments with reverence, understanding their profound significance. In a world that often champions novel interpretations, we are blessed to have the guiding light of Sacred Scripture and the wisdom of the Church Fathers. Let us hold fast to these age-old truths, finding in them the real means of grace that nourish our souls and anchor our faith.1. The Nature of the Dark Night
Contrary to popular perception, the “dark night” isn’t a mere period of suffering or desolation. For St. John, it represents a transformative stage wherein the soul is purified and prepared for a deeper union with God. It’s a necessary passage, stripping away the soul’s attachments and imperfections.
2. Senses vs. Spirit
St. John differentiates between the night of the senses and the night of the spirit. The former pertains to beginners in the spiritual life, where they find difficulty in meditation and feel God’s absence. The latter, a deeper and more intense purification, pertains to those advancing in their journey. Here, deeper-rooted imperfections of the spirit are cleansed.
3. Benefits of the Night
This dark night, while painful, is of immense spiritual benefit. It nurtures virtues like patience, hope, and love. As the soul endures this trial, it learns to rely less on itself and more on God, leading to profound humility.
4. Navigating the Night
St. John offers guidance on navigating this challenging phase. He advocates for patient endurance and complete trust in God’s providence. Importantly, he warns against the desire for spiritual consolations, urging the soul to seek God for His own sake and not for the feelings of spiritual sweetness.
5. The Dawn After Darkness
St. John assures that the dark night isn’t perpetual. It’s a transition leading to the unitive state, where the soul experiences profound union with God. After the purification of the dark night, the soul emerges more free, more open, and more passionately in love with the Divine.
6. A Universal Experience
While St. John’s writings come from the depth of his Carmelite spirituality, the experience of the dark night isn’t exclusive to mystics. Many people, regardless of their spiritual state, can identify with feelings of abandonment, dryness, and interior darkness. Hence, his insights offer solace and guidance to all.
St. John of the Cross, through his poetic and doctrinal writings, provides a roadmap for souls experiencing spiritual dryness. His central message is one of hope: the dark night, no matter how daunting, is a passage that leads the soul closer to its ultimate end – union with God.
In today’s world, where instant gratification is sought after, the teachings of St. John on the value of spiritual dryness and purification are especially poignant. The journey might be arduous, but it promises a union so deep and transformative that all the trials pale in comparison.